Council's rent hike plans alarm seniors

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014

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Hamilton's older residents risk being excluded from a centre set up to cater for their interests because of "excessive" council rental costs.

Hamilton SeniorNet, one of five main tenants of the Celebrating Age Centre on Victoria St, is seeking urgent talks with Hamilton City Council over changes to the centre's rental charges.

Hamilton SeniorNet chairperson Pat Van der Maas said her group's lease was up for renewal next month but they remained "in the dark" over the new fees.

"At the moment the council charges us $176 a month to use our room at the centre but they plan to change that and base our rent according to the size of our room," Van der Maas said.

SeniorNet teaches older people computing skills.

"We're also being asked to share the maintenance costs of the building and utilities, but the council won't tell us what any of these costs will be.

"We're due to renew our lease soon but how can we sign any agreements when we don't know what the fees will be. It's stressing everyone out."

Council's community general manager Lance Vervoort said changes to the Celebrating Age Centre's rental costs would be introduced on January 1 as a result of the council's new community occupancy policy.

The policy calculates rent at 12.5 per cent of the market rate per square metre.

Vervoort said different charges would apply to different areas of the Celebrating Age Centre.

The council's community well-being manager Jennifer Murray would work with individual organisations to calculate overall costs.

The centre was used regularly but had the capacity for more bookings, Vervoort said.

But Van der Maas said the rental changes would drive senior groups away from the centre and slammed the council for poorly communicating the changes.

"At the moment we can use the centre's lounge room for free but that will change to an hourly fee.

"For charitable organisations like ourselves we'll just have to fundraise more money, but smaller groups will be pushed out by these excessive charges," Van der Maas said.

One group which meets at the centre to play card games was arranging to move to an alternative venue.

The council also confirmed it was in talks with the Krazy Ladies cafe, who operate out of the centre's kitchen, over the renewal of their contract.

Vervoort said the council's current arrangement with Krazy Ladies was confidential.

"The cafe is one of the reasons why the centre is so popular and if the council decided to charge Krazy Ladies commercial rates I can't see them staying open," Van der Maas said.

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"It's a wonderful facility for the city's older residents, but the council appears to forget that most of these people are on a limited income.

"I can see a lot of the small groups will stop using the centre and that makes me quite angry."

aaron.leaman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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